CNMI Gaming Commission Considers Allowing Deadline Flexibility For Casino Operations

Imperial Pacific wants extension of time to fully get up and running

By Jon Perez 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 3, 2017) – Certain considerations could be made in granting the request of Imperial Pacific International CNMI LLC to amend the casino license agreement to extend the implementation of deadlines, according to Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan).

Deleon Guerrero, the House Gaming Committee chairman, said it is clear that IPI is working around the clock to finish its multimillion-dollar project.

“We know that when they were starting construction, Saipan was hit by Typhoon Soudelor. All of us know how long it took the island to get back to its feet,” he pointed out.

IPI had asked for more time on some of its deadlines, including the operation of its Best Sunshine Live training facility at the T Galleria.

It asked the CNMI government to extend the following: the Live Training facility from April 30 to Oct. 31; construction of Imperial Pacific Resort’s initial gaming facility from Aug. 11, 2017 to Feb. 11, 2018; and complete and initiate operations of Phase 1 from Feb. 11, 2018, to May 1, 2023, and Phase 2 from Aug. 11, 2022 to May 1, 2030. Phase 1 refers to the casino-hotel in Garapan; Phase 2 is the planned waterpark at the Mariana Resort & Spa property.

Deleon Guerrero said the Soudelor disaster and other circumstances that were beyond control should be considered for extending the deadline.

“I think there should be some sort of consideration made for that. Secondly, I think there were some issues with regards to leasing the public land over there. The negotiations took awhile and I don’t think the applicant should be penalized when there could have been delays on the government’s part to approve the lease agreement,” Deleon Guerrero said. “We’ve seen they’ve been acting in good faith and there were circumstances that were beyond their control. I think that is something to consider.

“If it means a couple of months to grant an extension of the deadline in the license agreement, I think that kind of consideration can be made. They’ve been working round-the-clock. I rather see that we extend the deadline and allow them to finish.”

He, however, reminded IPI to consider the safety of their patrons once they begin their casino operations in the first quarter of 2017. IPI is planning to have its soft opening with its casino and gaming facility next month.

“At least finish it to the point where safety is a top priority. The patrons or customers would not be affected not just by the noise, but they’ll be safe while construction is going on. Make sure there would be no falling debris,” said Deleon Guerrero.

“In a way it makes more sense to extend the deadline. Allow them to finish the project, at least the lower level is complete, then continue the work in the upper floors. That kind of concession is reasonable.”

He added that extending the implementation of deadlines for IPI is not favoritism. “I think all of us can see that they’re acting in good faith to finish their project. Construction had been going around the clock and it is a reasonable request where consideration should be given.”

The Commonwealth Lottery Commission issued the license.

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) said the IPI letter and the accompanying position of the Office of the Attorney General is also a concern. “I have not seen the AG’s letter yet. That’s why I’m hesitant to comment but that [AG’s position] is something we need to be concerned of.”

“It has the potential to put out these things, the plans for the casino industry, in chaos. The delays are something that needs to be looked into and this would be our concern. I probably would have a much more expanded view once I get a copy of the letter.”

He said there are still issues that need to be addressed, especially if the casino opens next month. Safety of the players is one where they won’t get hurt or get distracted by the ongoing construction.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), on the other hand, cautioned his colleagues and other officials to not rely too much on the new gaming industry. “We’re putting all our eggs in one basket. We’re banking it all and hoping the casino would give us continued revenue.”

“I hope the new gaming industry would grow. But we have to look at the possibility of things that could happen. We can’t predict the future, but we do know that currently China is not an ally of the Trump administration, which has come out and attacked them.”

He said China has been expanding and flexing its military might in the region, especially in Southeast Asia. China has continued with its military maneuvering and operations in the region.

“We must always be prepared for everything. God forbid if we go to war. What if the Trump administration cancels China’s visa waiver in the CNMI because they are upset at each other? That would hurt us badly and we will have to dig deep again and figure out what to do.”

“I’ve had several meetings and talks with Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres, and his administration is already implementing measures. He wants to diversify our economy and tourism. Tourism is our bread and butter [but] we can’t ignore the other markets out there.”

Saipan Tribune
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